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-34THEORIES OF EDUCATION IN THE CH'ING PERIOD* Charles P. Ridley A survey of the writings on education by teachers and scholars of the Ch'ing period strongly suggests that there were during this period a number of coherent fundamental assumptions about learning and teaching that underlay the practice of education and that these theoretical assumptions were held in common by thinkers of differing philosophical schools. Many of the scholars whose writings are quoted in this paper were at one time or another actively concerned with education either directly as teachers or indirectly as educational officials. Some were involved with the teaching of the very young, for which reason we can assume that they more often worked as private tutors rather than as instructors in formal educational institutions. Their comments on teaching thus very often appear to be distillations of their actual experiences in teaching. As most of these essays are represented in established collections of writings on education and as a number of the writers were educational officials of some influence, we are on relatively safe grounds in assuming that their ideas were well circulated in China during the Ch'ing period and that what they have written is representative of Chinese thinking on education at that time. Although there was no such discipline as educational psychology in Confucian China, those concerned with teaching the young were well aware of the salient questions relating to the psychology of teaching and *This paper is based on a portion of the author's doctoral dissertation, Educational Theory and Practice in Late Imperial China: The Teaching of Writing as a Specific Case {Stanford University, April 1973). -35learning and discussed them in often very modern terms in their essays on teaching and education. It is on the basis of such essays that I have drawn the conclusions discussed below. Let rae begin by stating my conclusions and then presenting the evidence for them. In brief, it appears that traditional Chinese educational theory involved a synthesis of what we would call the environmental and developmental positions. Qn the one hand, Chinese educators saw the environment as the controlling factor in human intellectual and moral development. On the other hand, the force that the environment was capable of exerting in the shaping of the individual was seen to diminish in proportion to the growth of the individual's intellectual powers. This latter view was founded on the belief that the power of understanding gradually develops during childhood and reaches a relatively full development at about the age of fourteen or fifteen. In other words, this was a stage theory of human intellectual development reminiscent of that of Piaget. In practice, this meant that learning in its initial stages, in both the intellectual and moral spheres, was seen of necessity as a matter of rote learning or as a process akin to conditioning in the case of moral behavior. At the outset, then, the environment and its influence were considered paramount. However, as intellectual capacity developed, the yoke of environmental control was viewed as being shed until the individual finally reached the point at which he was capable of making his own moral and intellectual decisions. -36A further conclusion is that the views or theories of Chinese educators about learning and intellectual development may also have been influenced by the nature of what had to be learned, that is, reading and writing in a literary language different from that of colloquial speech and historical and philosophical principles of a highly abstract character. If such is the case, an examination of Chinese views on learning and intellectual development might yield the additional benefit of demonstrating how culture-bound psychological theories may become. Now let us turn more specifically to the views of various Ch'ing writers on these topics. Both Mencius and Hsun-tzu believed that the environment was the determining factor in whether a person ultimately became good or bad. Thus, the roots of the environmentalist position are deeply embedded in Chinese thought. Another explicit expression of this position was found in the concept of t ' ai-chiao H¿_ ^ ^ ¥fc ? ¦* -39Recently I counted the number of characters in the Classic of Filial Piety, the Analects...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3257
Print ISSN
0884-3236
Pages
pp. 34-49
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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